Career and casual fashion retailer The Dress Barn Inc has posted second quarter earnings in line with initial expectations, and reported especially encouraging sales of spring transitional merchandise.

Second-quarter net earnings totalled $1.6 million compared to last year's $4.8m, hampered by costs related to its acquisition of the Maurices chain.

Second-quarter net sales rose 17 per cent to $200.1m compared to $171.0m in the same period in 2004. Same-store sales for the period increased 2 per cent.

For the six months ended 29 January 2005, net earnings totalled $8.8m - again negatively affected by acquisition expenses - compared to last year's $11.6m.

Net sales for the six-month period ended 29 January 2005 increased 9 per cent to $397.3m compared to $363.6m last year. Same-store sales increased 2 per cent.

Elliot Jaffe, chairman of The Dress Barn's board, said that the "strong early selling" of spring merchandise "continued to strengthen into February for both Dress Barn and Maurices stores".

The Dress Barn operates 775 Dress Barn stores and 473 Maurices stores in the US.